|Centralized Human Services Bldg Ahead of Schedule|
Located at 520 E Broad Street in Bethlehem, the Bechtel Building is a 29,000 sq ft facility, built in 1962, on 2.12 acres. It includes 95 parking places and was purchased by the County in 1993 for $763,000. Named after the first County Executive, it houses 70 human services workers.
It needs $1 million in capital improvements and repairs over the next 5-10 years.
Another piece of the jigsaw puzzle, the Governor Wolf Building in Easton, needs $3.3 million in capital repairs and improvements over the next 5-10 years. Its 173 human services caseworkers have complained about conducting supervised child visitation amid asbestos, lead paint and bat guano. It is largely inaccessible to between 25-35 disabled veterans, who visit every week. The County has 23,690 vets.
The Wolf Building was sold in May for $1.925 million to developers Mark Mulligan, David Dallas and Bill Vogt.
The $3.5 million realized from the sale of the Wolf and Bechtel Building is about $700,000 more than was projected when County Council and Stoffa first considered centralizing human services.
Executive John Stoffa has called a centralized human services building at 2801 Emrick Blvd. in Bethlehem Township a "golden opportunity to do something terrific" for the 18,000 people who need human services. Stoffa, who has devoted his career to serving them, has said, "Most of them have two problems. They're lonely and don't have enough money. They don't have advocacy groups. They don't have PACs. They don't have people speaking for them."
Stoffa stated that the sale "contributes to the revitalization of Bethlehem, and Northampton County will reinvest the revenue from this sale into the new Human Service facility." He adds that the sale will put the property back on the tax rolls.
Attorney Justin K. McCarthy, a fixture in Bethlehem for several decades, will move his offices from the stately Dodson Building at 528 N. New Street. The former headquarters of the Lehigh Navigation Coal Company is being converted into a 21-unit apartment building. Other Dodson tenants, which include the McHale and La Porta insurance agencies, will follow McCarthy to Bechtel.
The Agreement of Sale is subject to Northampton County Council approval. When fully enacted, closing would occur immediately, Attorney McCarthy will move into 2,200 SF on first floor and lease the balance of the building back to Northampton County until they vacate sometime prior to March 31, 2013. In lieu of rent Northampton County would continue to pay the utilities and minor repairs and maintenance.
Attorney McCarthy said, “I would like to thank Northampton County for its quick response and flexibility in accommodating our conditions of purchase in particular the sale and leaseback so that we can promptly move into the Bechtel building.”
One person is "disappointed" at news of the sale. Bethlehem DCED Director Joe Kelly complained to The Express Times that the City of Bethlehem was largely left out of the process. He suggested that the County should have considered demolishing the building. County officials are puzzled by Kelly's contention, and have produced emails showing that both Bethlehem and Kelly have been approached repeatedly.